Monday, September 27, 2010

Secrets & Fears

So I'm back from the GLMA Conference. I feel better though not 100%. Perhaps 60-70%, which is still much better than most of last week. This post will serve 2 purposes: to answer A Wandering Pom's questions in his comment on my last post and to prep you all when I do talk about the GLMA Conference in my next post.
1. Secrets & Fears
All you had to do is ask. Many of my secrets you all know pretty intimately. Many of my fears I've already shared here, as they're often related to the secrets.

That I'm bi/gay is no surprise here. But I don't know which (if either or somewhere in between) I am. I fear that, busy as I am, I won't get the opportunity to face that fear and answer it. And so I may be left to wander in confusion. I can't "attach" myself to a particular identity, or perhaps I won't allow myself to be.

That I've never had a romantic/sexual relationship also shouldn't be a surprise. Correspondingly I'm a virgin in every sense but oral sex. I fear that I'll always be alone in this regard - to never really know what it's like to cuddle/be cuddled, to kiss/be kissed, to feel someone else's body intimately (in a non-clinical way), to have sex.

I also fear that I may not be able to open up and let myself become vulnerable. I may not recognize love; I might not be able to truly loosen up and relax, not be able to completely trust someone. I fear that I can't let this go - can I ever let someone get that close? It goes against everything I've done in my life; there's always some defense, some wall, some checkpoint, some guard - usually with very good reasons. I'm afraid to even try, as every time before has been met by some barrier that I learn about the moment I get close enough.

I feel frozen, stuck in the routines of my life but not knowing which way to go, which direction to walk in. I feel life passing me by as I advance in a single straight line. I fear that perhaps 10 years from now, when I am a doctor, I'll look back and regret the things I didn't do . . . the things I wasn't able to do for any of the reasons above. I fear that perhaps I try so hard to validate something, to prove something to someone who isn't even there.

I want someone to pull me out of this and away from this.
2. "Prep"
So, GLMA is a largely medical organization. As such, most of the people there were med students, residents, and physicians (there were some nurses, social workers, advocates, etc). And to understand the nuances of what I may say in my next post, one should perhaps understand the hierarchy of medicine.

Med students
M1 - first year med student
M2 - second year med student
M3 - third year med student, aka "junior med student" (JMS)
M4 - fourth year med student, aka "senior med student" (SMS)

PGY1 - first year resident, aka "intern"
PGY2 - second year resident
PGY3 - third year resident (and so on)

So after med school, one moves on to residency. Most residencies are 3-5 years. The first year of residency is the intern year. After residency, one may specialize in something like "infectious diseases." When one does their specialty training, they become a Fellow. Many/most fellowships usually last 3 years. Finally, after that one becomes an Attending (if one goes into academic medicine).

I should come up with some name or key for all the people I met at the Conference, but that'll have to wait till later. I'm heading to bed now.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mask of Smiles

It seems I'm within arm's reach of that wall - that glass wall that easily cracks with the slightest touch and the gentlest breath. I thought I had survived, that I can trudge through this last stretch. But now I'm not so sure. And yet, I'll smile.

So many things depend on me to move forward. Decisions to be made, emails to be sent, things to delegate, people to coordinate, people to talk to, people to smile at. But I'm slowly crumbling inside. And yet, I smile.

I say I'm tired, that I'm exhausted, that I'm stressed. You agree and say "What a long week it's been or going to be." But I can see that you don't really share my frustrations. You don't share the same burdens of responsibility or whatever it is with me. You certainly must think "Oh, it can't be that bad." Because I smile, because I'm smiling. And you can't see past that. Deep down perhaps you don't believe me. It's okay, no one really hears what I say when it matters.

Right now I wish I were the patient and you are the doctor who comes and heals me, fixes me, mends my cracks. Someone to hold my hand and say "It's okay" and walk me through this step-by-step. Someone to give me a hug or at least a reassuring hand on the shoulder. Someone who knows what's to come and will be there with me. Someone who sees past the mask of smiles and asks those questions to open the box of answers that I cannot freely give to just anyone - perhaps not even to myself. Ask me for my innermost secrets and darkest fears. And show me, not just tell me, what I'm supposed to do.

Until then, I'll keep up this Mask of Smiles. Because at least then it's only I who suffer. Because at least then I can pretend that I'm not so close to that breaking and crumbling wall. And because it's a test that you must pass to let me know that you truly know and care without me having to say it first.

And because you read this, you've already failed. These false smiles shall persist yet.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Knew You'd Ask

It's going to be a LONG week ahead for me. Thankfully, the second of several events between now and next Sunday has passed. The turn-out was rather good, considering it was the first time we put on this event. Anyway, it's over now. Phew! Next one tomorrow, then Monday (plus an exam on Monday), then Tuesday, then Wednesday, then GLMA Conference Thursday through Saturday. o_O

After the event tonight, Dr. P (who graciously volunteered) and I were chatting privately in the halls. And he asked: "So, are you gay?"

I had to laugh and said, "I knew you were going to ask that! You've always given me this look." Then I answered him something to the effect of that I'm bi but not quite sure. That took another moment to explain but I think he understood where I was coming from and was satisfied.

He's all excited about this Conference and I think he almost sees it (in some way) as a vacation of sorts that he's giving me. It's kind of amusing to hear a physician tell me to just enjoy it, have fun, and forget about coursework for a few days. Things will probably still linger in the back of my mind, but I will try my best. :-P

So yeah, I'm out to Dr. P now. Happy now?

Anyway, I'm freaking out less now. I think I've exhausted most of my "freaking out-ness."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This Really IS Happening

Wow. This really IS happening. o_O

All of this feels surreal still. Tomorrow, Friday, next Monday, next Wednesday, and next Thursday through next Saturday. Things will be okay, they'll work out.

It seems I've bought a ticket to San Diego, CA, for the GLMA Conference next week. And it seems that Dr. P is paying for everything but the plane ticket. I'm not sure how this is all going to work out, but I need to tell myself that things will be okay and they'll work out.

I should be grateful, and I am. More so than anything. I should be ecstatic. But I'm not - why do I feel unworthy of this extreme generosity? Why do I feel so nervous? Why do I feel like crawling under a rock?

It's okay, it's not like any of you will see the above on my face. Like an oncologist delivering bad news, we in the medical field out of necessity develop great masks to hide our own feelings outwardly. I just hope mine doesn't crack.

And I'm still waiting for that one thing that'll bring me back to normal. But if I told you it wouldn't happen. And so I wait.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Method to My Madness

I'd like to take a moment away from studying for my immunology exam (on Monday) to address the comments in my last 2 posts.

First, I Blame the Wine
Where to start. Understand that I've erected several mental walls throughout the years, often without realizing it until I find myself running and banging my head against them. It takes effort to break them and it takes time to reduce them to rubble. It's taken a number of years to get comfortable enough with public speaking, something I'm still not 100% comfortable with at all times. It's only in the last few years that I've found a way to put on a mask of sociability when in large social situations. And it's also only in the last few years that the thought of coming out even existed in my mind.

There are things that come easy to people, and there are things that don't. The above are all things that don't (or didn't) come easily to me. They required a significant amount of active energy. There's this sense of dread that washes over me - increased heartbeat (tachycardia, if you will), a shakiness, a rush of panic afterwards. It's uncomfortable and not a natural feeling. It's oddly similar to guilt.

Is there a good reason for this reaction? Probably not. The human mind is irrational about many things, no matter how we would condition ourselves. That I'll come out to Dr. P at some point is practically an inevitability. The question is simply when and under what situation.

Second, In This Regard, I'm Quite Lucky
Yes, I've been under overwhelming stress being the president/co-president of 2 student organizations and the co-chair of 2 student-run programs. Pardon me for caring. Pardon me for re-vamping a program with my co-chair to better serve uninsured patients (and med students) at a free clinic. Pardon me for wanting to promote health education/awareness in a community that's difficult for people outside the community to access. Pardon me for trying to organize a health fair in the inner city. I can do all this because, amongst the other presidents, I have a skill for systematizing how I organize things down to practically a protocol with a series of flexible deadlines.

I'm well aware that the USMLE Step 1 is paramount. I need no reminding. I refuse to freak out about it like many of my peers (many of whom are aiming for the more lucrative fields of medicine). Overwhelmed and stressed as I seem, I do have a plan. In fact, my plan is manifold. As they say, there's a method to my madness. You see, dear commenters, the vast majority of the events I'm heading occurs this semester. By January I'll only have 2-3 more events to organize/run. By April I'll have already transitioned my position to M1s. I'll have a pretty solid 2.5 months to focus on nothing but the Step 1 (well, not counting class exams).

So as my involvement in extracurriculars winds down as the months wear on, my effort towards studying for the Step 1 will be ramping up. Also, I've decided to participate in my school's Step 1 Review program with 2 of my friends; and that program will probably start in October or so. As you can see, I have things currently under control. And besides, I don't need a high score to place into a pediatrics residency. Though, of course I've no intention of settling for just passing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

In This Regard, I'm Quite Lucky

I'm going to take a brief pause in whining about my overloaded life, though even this post is related to that life. :-/

So yesterday, I was discussing with my friend, Michelle, over the program we've basically re-vamped, sorting things out and whatnot. Michelle is in the process of finding and contacting physicians to be mentors in a unique program through AMSA (American Medical Student Association) that focuses on cultural sensitivity in clinical practice. She's been having difficulty identifying the right physicians to contact.

By happenstance, I knew of several physicians who might be useful for her to contact. These include:

Dr. P = infectious disease - HIV/AIDS patients
Dr. Pi = family medicine - LGBT patients
Dr. S = pediatrics - inner city (most African-American) peds patients
Dr. H = peds infectious disease - HIV/AIDS peds patients
Dr. C = peds infectious disease - internationally adopted peds patients
Dr. L = family medicine - Hmong patients

So right there, 6 physicians who deal with "special populations" in a sense. I've had the pleasure of meeting 5 of the 6 and the privilege of interacting with 4 of the 6 in clinic/on the wards. There are many other med students who can't say the same thing. And so in this regard, I'm quite lucky.

While my interests laid the groundwork, luck played its part in my encounter with each of them. Had I not been interested in pediatrics, infectious diseases, and a diverse patient population, I probably wouldn't have met most of them. And several of them have had a part in shaping what I might want to end up doing.

And so you see, I have this grand ideal career I'd love to have, but I have no expectation whatsoever of ever getting there. To get where I want to end up would require more luck than should be allowed in that I need to be at the right place at the right time and meet the right people and say the right things.

Because you see, what I want do involves the following:
- Clinic 3 days a week, with one of the days being at a clinic in a Chinatown somewhere
- Teach a class 2 days a week
- Be the director of a program (probably public health in nature)

Sounds simple, but it's not. I wonder what the future brings and where it'll take me (hopefully away from here).

P.S. People have brought up interesting points in their comments to my last post. Perhaps I'll devote a post to answering or at least giving my thoughts on the topic. We'll see . . .

Friday, September 3, 2010

I Blame the Wine

So, 2 days ago, we hosted an opening social for the LGBT group at a physician's house. Dr. P was there helping the physician set up and all. Kat and I arrived early to help out, though we didn't end up doing much. (Kat has been surprisingly upbeat these last couple weeks, I hope it stays that way.)

The turnout was actually really good, considering that pathology tutoring for M2s was the same night and the anatomy tutors moved the mock anatomy practical for M1s from Thursday to Tuesday this year (which sucked, since this meant that no M1s would be attending). Surprisingly, one M1 did make it! Our other faculty advisor came with her partner. I must say, they make a really attractive lesbian couple. o_O For a while, there were almost the same number of physicians as med students . . . awkward. But then more med students started filing in, which was good.

Halfway through the social, Kat wanted me to make an announcement to thank Dr. P and the physician whose house we were at. I drank some more wine. I'm no orator. I can be terribly awkward in such situations. I can be quite awkward in social situations, but I somehow managed to talk to almost everyone in attendance, which was no simple feat for me! Thankfully the wine helped. All 6-8 glasses of it (granted, the glasses were small-ish).

Also, I don't know if it's the wine or not (but I blame it anyway), but I had a mini-crush on Dr. P that night. o_O I mean, him + polo shirt + shorts = swoon (also, he's only in his mid- to late-30s). He has really nice arms and legs; well, he's just really nice overall. But, he has a partner, and it'd be a very bad idea to let this get any further considering our respective positions. Partway through the social, he leaned in close and whispered in my ear, "I know this isn't politically correct, but are there any gay M1s or M2s?" I answered, "I honestly don't know because I didn't make it a policy to ask."

I must admit, it made me a tad uneasy. Every time he asks me a similar question, I feel like he's looking into me for answers or a confession or something. I've wanted to come out to him so badly, but I just can't seem to. How odd. I just want to chat with him about life and let myself vent and ask him for guidance, or something. But I don't think that's going to happen in the near future. What's holding me back?

When Kat and I left (we carpooled), we talked about Dr. P's whispered comment to me. There's a reason why there are so few openly LGBT students. If you come out, you are the gay student. You are the gay person that everyone looks to and you have to be the "model" gay med student. You become the reference. It's not a burden most would want to carry.
Anyway, my thoughts feel very disjointed. I'm beyond overwhelmed with things right now. Something just doesn't seem quite right inside at the moment. :-/